From comics to books to films to toys to cults, the Marvel Universe is one of the greatest contributors of 20th and 21st century icons. Names like Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Incredible Hulk are as familiar to us as George Washington.
In a lot of ways, the idea of superheroes is just a modern version of the age-old human fascination with humans are somehow ‘better’. It’s a resignation that exists somewhere between our inner realization that there ARE greater beings, and that the human race itself is not as it should be: physically, emotionally, or spiritually. unfortunately, it is an indicator of our own sinfulness that Marvel characters and other superheroes are generally morally ambiguous at best, though they are cut and ripped (in the modern sense) on the outside.
Amidst all that emerges their latest film, Thor: a mythological, fantastic, comedic, romantic, super-hero whiz bang flick. Yes, that sounds very Marvel. From a technical aspect, the film remains both unbelievable and a visual treat; the story telling is engaging and energetic, displayed by above average acting for a super hero tale; and of course, the riveting action sequences come out to meet you in 3D.
But the real beauty in this film lies in it’s counter intuitive nature: whereas most super hero flicks portray the protagonist’s personal struggle in his laying aside his weakness and embracing the responsibility of power, Thor‘s strength lies in reversing the process.
From the start, Thor, the main character, has every super heroic thing going for him: he has dashing charisma and colossal biceps, he is part of an immortal race on the far off world of Asgard, and his father Odin has chosen to crown him king. Over and above all of that, he has the Swiss army knife of hammers: it may look like a huge chunk of metal with a short stick protruding from it, but the fact that it was forged in a dying star and gives him the ability to fly, smack baddies like golf balls,and even cause storms gives this a more-than-hardware-store value. So no, Thor is not like Captain America or Peter Parker, or even Tony Stark in his early form: this guy is a born hero. At least, he has all of the outside, normal Marvel qualifications. But his arrogant, self-assured disposition is seen as anything but heroic by his dad. In fact, after Thor demands to take revenge on the Frost Giants of Jutenhiem for breaking into the palace and attempting to reclaim an ancient relic, Odin decides he’d better hold off on this coronation thing for just a bit.
Thor, not to be thwarted in his purpose, decides to defy his father’s express wishes and takes his brother Loki, and his friends “the Lady Sif and the Warriors Three” and heads to Jutenhiem to teach the Frost Giants a lesson they won’t forget. With a hammer like his, that’s hardly difficult. It also is great incentive for the said Frost Giants to break the long held truce between themselves and Asgard.
In view of these events, and an extremely heated debate between himself and his rebellious son, Odin decides to strip Thor of his power, and banish him to Earth till he learns his lesson…
With that as a very short overview of this film’s initial plot, what exactly is it that makes Thor so counter intuitive? For one thing, because of the mythological background, Marvel has for once presented a hero who is truly noble; the end result in this film isn’t a selfish whiny punk who happens to be good a kicking badguys posteriors to Kingdom Come.
But much more than that, Thor presents a character who started out powerful, and became a hero when he became weak. Thor, in his sojourn to Earth, learns first to lay aside his own arrogance; in shocking counter-Hollywood fashion, he realizes the overwhelming importance of loving and respecting his father. And in the end, Thor’s trading self-exaltation for self-sacrifice is displayed when he willingly lays down his life for the people of Earth he has come to love: echoes of the greater Redemption story.
So, in the midst of all the ethical puzzles that summer action movies present, Marvel has produced a clean, extremely fun film that leaves you satisfied with both an engaging story and a true hero. That was what made Thor so hammer-hard-hitting.